'I was steered towards Oxbridge – but became an apprentice'

Airbus engineering apprentice Aaron Beaumont tells his story as part of the #InspiringApprentices campaign

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My name is Aaron Beaumont. I am 21 and from Ash in Surrey. I am currently on the Airbus undergraduate engineering apprenticeship. I have been on this scheme for two and a half years, and my apprenticeship ends in December next year. 

I found out about the idea of apprenticeships through my Dad and Grandad, who both did apprenticeships to start their careers (cabinet making and electrical engineering respectively). They were very positive about their schemes and it seemed like the route into engineering that I would most enjoy and benefit from.


More on apprenticeships: 'I am proud to be a female Stem apprentice'

Background: Tes launches #InspiringApprentices campaign

Other news: Minister backs #InspiringApprentices campaign 


University-focused advice

Careers advice at school was very university-focused. I was on a gifted and talented programme at school, which meant that we were always steered towards Oxbridge, with trips and events to these universities. Careers advice at college for apprenticeships was limited and did not focus on higher education apprenticeship schemes. There was a huge bias towards the “conventional” route of going to university.

I was not sure what to expect from being on an apprenticeship scheme other than learning about the aerospace industry on the job while studying at university. It was clear that doing an undergraduate apprenticeship was going to be lots of work and the ability to balance work, university and everyday life would be challenging. An apprenticeship appealed to me as it was a way of getting a university education and gaining four years of work experience without having student debt at the end of the degree. 

The apprenticeship has far exceeded my expectations. It has been a great experience. The knowledge and information I have gained about the aerospace industry is extraordinary. Being able to complete work to tight deadlines and study at the same time is challenging, but worth it. As well as leaving the scheme with a BEng degree alongside both level 2 and level 4 NVQs, I will also be well on my way to becoming an Incorporated Engineer, which can be used as a stepping stone to chartership.

Supportive management

Typically, we spend three to six months working in different areas within the engineering domain. This has enabled me to work in stress engineering, global finite element modelling, design engineering and failure analysis, and for airbus helicopters.

The managers are very supportive and want to ensure that, as apprentices, we have the best experience that we possibly can. Within the workplace, apprentices are widely respected by the other employees. We are given relevant work that goes towards the common goals of the team we are working in. Everyone is very happy to help, so that we can build a solid foundation of knowledge.

The best part about the apprenticeship scheme is the ability to move through different engineering roles (on three- to six-month placements) within Airbus. This flexibility and manoeuvrability has allowed me to build up an extensive network among the engineers and other employees. I have met some incredible people and built invaluable relationships. I have also taken part in many science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) events such as helping at local schools and the Royal International Air Tattoo (RIAT) Airshow.

'My friends were unsure'

My family were very supportive of the idea of me going to do an apprenticeship, especially with such a large company. The fact that there are no university fees, you receive a competitive salary and gain four years of work experience means it was a no-brainer for me. My friends were a little unsure what I was going to be doing as an apprentice, because of the lack of awareness of degree-level apprenticeships at school. After I explained about the apprenticeship, they started to look into apprentice roles for the jobs they wanted to do. I have been told it was a step in the right direction for my career and I couldn’t agree more.

After the apprenticeship, although there is no guarantee of a permanent contract, the likelihood of securing a job is very high: the investment the company has made into training each apprentice is significant, while the four years of work experience alongside a university degree makes you very attractive to future employers.

In 10 years, I will hopefully have completed some further study to achieve an MEng in aerospace engineering. I also hope to have made significant progress towards becoming a Chartered Engineer.

I would definitely recommend doing an apprenticeship. The experience and knowledge you gain are extremely valuable. Personally, from the time I made the decision to become an engineering apprentice, I haven’t looked back. It is by far the best decision I could have made.

Aaron Beaumont is an undergraduate engineering apprentice with Airbus. His story is part of the #InspiringApprentices campaign 

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